While many things improve with age — like sex, alcohol and Jennifer Aniston — there’s at least one thing that doesn’t, and for me it’s my period blood clots. And I know I’m not alone in wondering why my periods seem to have gotten worse over time, including the pretty horrific addition of heavy blood clotting on the second or third day of my period.
While heavy bleeding during menstruation is a problem most women have had to manage at some point, clotting is a lesser-talked-about symptom that can be very distressing. Excuse the TMI, but imagine a heavy discharge, but instead of the usually creamy or translucent consistency, it consists of dark red blood. Needless to say, the unfamiliar, jelly-like sight can be anxiety-inducing.
Obviously, it’s always best to consult a medical practitioner to ensure there is nothing more serious going on with your body, but what if your periods have merely gotten worse with age, like mine seem to have?
Dr. Jessica Shepherd an OB-GYN of KnowYourBirthControl.com, explains, “Heavy bleeding is a common problem for women. While you should always speak to your doctor about how to manage, there are birth control options out there used for pregnancy prevention that, for some women, may also result in short, lighter periods.”
Personally, I’ve struggled to find a hormonal contraceptive that works for me and doesn’t create side effects like depression and a loss of libido, but the thought of potentially shorter and lighter periods is enticing.
My periods have always been slightly irregular, and my cycle often runs longer than the average, with 34-plus days not being unusual for me. But now that I’m in my 30s, getting my period is a less regular affair. While I don’t experience heavy clotting every month, every two or three periods is heavier, more awkward and involves blood clots. As I’m a little out of shape right now, the irregularity and severity is undoubtedly due in part to the lack of exercise in my life (I gave up on a lot when my mother died last year, and I’m slowly clawing back some semblance of self).
According to Shepherd, “The risk of blood clots with the use of hormonal birth control is relatively low and decreases with duration of use and decreasing estrogen dose. That said, I also recommend that women do not smoke, as smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular side effects.”
While hormonal contraception is a means of moderating periods that feature heavy blood clotting, it’s not necessarily the right method for everyone.
“Hormonal birth control use isn’t necessarily needed for long-term use; however, the decrease in bleeding is often helpful, and studies have shown that it can improve women’s quality of life and work double duty by providing contraception,” Shepherd explains.
If you and your doctor think it might help and you’re experiencing heavy blood clotting on a regular basis, then birth control may be the way forward.
Experts at Women’s Health explain why blood clots don’t happen during every period. They write, “anti-coagulants released by the body during menstruation fend off period clots. But sometimes, especially if you have a heavy flow, not all of your uterine tissue is able to be broken down, which leads to clots forming and being released during menstruation.”
Basically, just having a heavy flow can lead to the body producing period blood clots, so the sight of them shouldn’t be so alarming.
While I might never get used to seeing big blood clots during my period, it’s helpful to know what to look out for. As RubyCup says, “Blood Clots in your period are generally bright or darker red and can sometimes make your menstrual flow seem dense and thick.”
And Women’s Health concurs, saying, “These clots are typically red or dark in color and appear during the heaviest days of a woman’s period.”
The older I get, the more I learn about my body. Blood clots are a newer addition to the symptoms I experience during menstruation, but it’s reassuring to know that many people experience them on a regular basis.